Neuro-aesthetics, neuro-evolutionary literary cricitism, neuro-ethics, neuro-law and neuro-theology - has the cult of ‘neuromania’ left us with a hollow, reductive account of human nature? Are we just a bunch of neurons firing in some soft tissue? Is society just a bunch of brains interacting? Can fMRI scans explain love, creativity, altruism, evil and religious beliefs?
Recent advances in neuroscience have taken the world by storm – they allow us an incredible insight into the motivations for our nature and behaviour, and have deepened our understanding of what it means to be human. They allow us greater compassion for each other’s faults and actions (which are suddenly seen to be not quite so intentional) but limit our responsibility for our own actions (my enlarged amygdala made me do it).
But has our fascination with the discipline gone too far – does all this searching for the ‘God-spot’ somehow diminish the importance of taking a leap of faith?
Philosopher and author Professor Raymond Tallis and RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor debate the competing claims made for the ability of neuroscience to explain human behaviour, culture and society.